The word “patrician” comes from the Latin word pater, which means “father.” Patricians were considered to be descended from one of the original members of ancient Rome known as patres. The plebeians (plebs) were the common people who did not have this ancestry and did not enjoy their privileges.
Patricians were members of the gens, or family, with long-standing ties to the city’s ruling elite. They could trace their ancestry back to early Roman history and often had family connections that gave them special privileges over other citizens.
Patricians had legal rights that no other Roman citizen could claim. They could marry only other patricians, and they could not be put to death without a trial by other patricians. They also had certain legal privileges regarding property ownership and inheritance. They were also exempt from taxes on their landholdings and did not have to serve in the military or pay any type of public service tax (taxes paid by citizens for military or civil service).
The number of patricians grew over time as more people became wealthy through agriculture and trade. By the late Republic period (509-27 B.C.), there were about 300 patrician families among Rome’s 900 senators or senators-elect (those elected but not yet sworn into office).
The Patrician class was eventually abolished in the 5th century AD.